Living in Like

You should see the looks I get from a newly engaged couple when I asked them, “Do you like each other?” They will look at each other, and then look back at me. One of them will say, “We’ve got more than ‘like.’ We love each other.”

That’s great, I tell them, but that doesn’t answer my question. “Do you like each other?”

Here’s why that’s important: you live most of your married life in “like.” Sure, there are lots of moments that overflow in passion and feelings only poets can describe, but those moments hardly make up most of your life together.

Most of your life is spent doing normal things—taking care of the kids, doing chores around the house, going to the gym, and cleaning up the kitchen. And while you’re doing these things, the person you’re married to is there all of the time.

You’d better marry somebody you like.

Do you have enough in common to make conversations easy?
Do you have enough differences to make conversations interesting?
Do you have a common worldview about life and what matters in life?
Do you have a good mix of adventure and good ol’ common sense to make life fun, but not destructive?
Can you have fun when it’s just the two of you, regardless of the situation?

Yep, the romantic moments are great—when the candles are lit and the violins are playing in the background—but those moments are like great desserts. They taste great, but they are filled with sugar.

The meat and potatoes of marriage are those moments when you’re laughing at each other because the baby just threw up on both of you or how ridiculous you both look trying to clean up the bathroom after the toilet overflowed.

Those are the moments that hold you together. Those are the moments that you remember—the moments you realize how much you like each other and fall in love all over again.

Marriage Takes 200%

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. “Well you know, a good marriage is a 50-50 deal…”

Really? Think about that statement. Are we saying that a husband gives half and a wife gives half and that makes a good marriage?

Here’s a little secret that no one but me will tell you: No marriage is 50-50. Every marriage is 100-100. That is, the husband has to give all that he has to the marriage, and the wife has to give all that she has to the marriage. Both have to be “all in” or the marriage will gradually unravel in suspicion and doubt.

Now, here’s the other little secret no one but me will tell you. You always have to come up with 200%. That means sometimes you have to give more than your 100. There are times in our lives when life just becomes too hard, overwhelming, and even debilitating. During that time, you may only be able to give 60% to the marriage.That means your spouse will have to come up with the other 140%.

When Chris and Craig were little, Jeannie was a great mother, but twin boys took all of her time and energy. There wasn’t a whole lot left over for me. That meant whatever Jeannie couldn’t bring to the marriage, I had to carry. She couldn’t give any more. She didn’t have it. So, I had to give more.

In the same way, when I was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, I was a lousy husband. I wasn’t even a good patient. Jeannie carried our marriage. Every day, you have to come up with 200%.

In the ups and downs of life, everyone gets a turn. Sometimes, your spouse just doesn’t have it to give. You have to make up what’s lacking. At other times, your spouse will have to bring extra to the relationship. But no matter what, every day you have to come up with 200%. Anything less than that, and you’ll be coming up short.

Great marriages have never been 50-50. They’ve always been total commitments of husbands and wives who, every day, find a way to come up with 200%

Do the Little Things

Now that I’ve been doing what I do for as long as I have, people want to know about things that have surprised me. Well, that’s a hard one because I’m surprised every day by something. Every day I see something I never thought I would see. I’ve seen a human being walk on the moon and then, I watched as we got bored with going to the moon. Think about that. People got bored hearing about people going to the moon. The evening news doesn’t even cover it anymore.

But what has surprised me the most is how big of an impact little things make. Little things left unattended can add up to a big pile of trouble.

Take marriage for instance. Most marriages don’t fail because of an affair or some drastic, unforgiveable act. Most of the time love is frozen under layers and layers of anger that has built up over the years as small things have not been addressed.

A “thank you” goes unspoken, and a wife feels taken for granted.

An “I’m sorry” isn’t said, and a husband feels ignored.

None of these issues are insurmountable or even difficult to overcome in and of themselves. But, when thrown into a pile with all of the other unresolved issues, you have a big pile of pain before you know it. You can deal with this pile one incident at a time. It’s possible, but it takes a long time.

The other way is to recognize the power of each moment, no matter how small, and use each moment as an opportunity to bring your marriage closer together. Small kindnesses and gentle words are little knots that hold the whole thing together. Just like small things can add up to big problems, little acts of love add up to a very rich and satisfying marriage.

The truth is, it works both ways. Little things add up, and we get to choose whether they add up to something beautiful or painful.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is releasing the other person of the expectation they can fix what they did. They can’t. Once hurt, the hurt is yours to deal with. We take our heart to Christ in prayer and find our healing there. Christ is the only source of healing for the soul.